The view of beautiful lush green mountains with the occasional peak smeared with snow is always enchanting. The crisp, cool air sneaking in through the rolled-down windows of the car is invigorating. Multi-coloured Buddhist flags fluttering in the breeze welcome you to each cluster of villages, small and big. Scores of Army and paramilitary camps are sprinkled in between. These sights kept me company as I meandered into the heights of Arunachal Pradesh’s West Kameng district towards Sela Top, the pass that leads to Tawang. But one sight that struck me as unusual was of BJP flags in front of business complexes and private houses. There were Buddhist flags with the BJP’s next to them—something that’s sprung up in recent times. Perplexing sight, but for a state that was formed as late as 1987, this perhaps is a new-found belief. It is true in other states as well, especially in the Northeast and east.
From the cold mountains to the beautiful warm beaches of Tamil Nadu, the contrast couldn’t be starker—more so politically. There’s no sign of BJP flags fluttering. The saffron is just a speck in the political spectrum. In a state that takes pride in its Dravidian legacy, there was a split verdict—a landslide for the DMK-led alliance in the Lok Sabha elections and enough for the AIADMK in the Assembly bypolls to stay in power.
The simmering anti-BJP sentiment might have gone against the AIADMK, with which it had a pre-poll pact, in the Lok Sabha elections. It also shows that issues like NEET and hydrocarbon exploration in the Cauvery Delta did have their effect. On the flip side, even the Kongu belt, considered the AIADMK’s fort, couldn’t stop the DMK juggernaut. Heavyweights like Lok Sabha deputy speaker Thambi Durai had to concede defeat. Losing the Salem LS seat must have been embarrassing. DMK chief M K Stalin, facing his first big test after the demise of his father M Karunanidhi, passed the litmus test. Yet, his MPs might just be numbers in Lok Sabha as the opposition in the Centre is weak.
The election also showed that, despite political realignment, parties other than the AIADMK and the DMK were non-influential. TTV’s AMMK was a flop. While Kamal Haasan’s MNM did have traction in the urban pockets, in the rural areas it turned out to be a dud.
Chief Minister Edappadi K Palaniswami survived again. Time and again, he has shown his political acumen. Perhaps he read the conditions well and concentrated where he had to—on the Assembly bypolls. He knew that without these numbers, his party’s existence would be under threat. With the riddle of TTV Dhinakaran’s AMMK around his neck, survival was his primary motive.
With this win, he has also ensured that he is the sole leader of the party. By managing to push TTV, who ended up with a meagre 5%-odd vote share, to the fringes, he has thwarted his Enemy Number 1 and started wooing back those who left the party. His proximity to the BJP leadership should come in handy now. The DMK, with 110 seats, might be tempted to make efforts to topple the government but it will not be easy. With the BJP in the Centre, EPS must feel secure. He has over two years to consolidate. In political parlance, that is a long, long time and who knows by then which way the votes will swing.
The recent statement by Nitin Gadkari on prioritising the linking of the Krishna-Godavari-Cauvery rivers shows where Tamil Nadu stands in the BJP’s pecking order. For a state that reels under drought year after year, this will be seen as a relief. In the next five years, the BJP will definitely try to make inroads in this Dravidian bastion.
All eyes will be on AIADMK’s lone representative in the Lok Sabha, Deputy CM O Pannerselvam’s son O P Ravindranath. A ministerial berth is what the AIADMK expects and it may get it too. As the hype of the 2019 elections settles down, the real picture will emerge. It needs to be seen where TN figures in the Centre’s scheme of things.
(The author is Resident Editor Tamil Nadu. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org)